I've been taking a new (to me) class at the gym that focuses on interval training. I love the way it makes me stretch, offering a challenging alternative to my solo workouts. The instructor's great: energetic, positive, and pushes students only as far as they'd like to be pushed. But, the other day, she began to talk in class about her dessert consumption. "I ate some cake the other night, and it went right here!" (pointing to outer thighs) Later on in the class, she again mentioned consuming cake and cookies and said, "Who else was eating cookies? I know I'm not the only one!" (As in, let's all work that much harder--we must work off our sweets!)
Just a bit of background in case you're confused as to why I found this troubling: Cookies and cake are not bad. We do not need to atone for eating them through exercise. Exercise (with or without cookies/cake) is beneficial to our physical and psychological health.
Ok, so what does an eating disorder psychologist (who also has a fitness background)do in a situation like this? I like the class, but dislike those kinds of messages. And, I have a bit of a political agenda, truth be told. So, I approached the instructor after class and told her I had enjoyed it, but had a small concern. I mentioned the work I do and the prevalence of eating disorders. I even spectulated on the incidence of eating disorders among class participants (yes, I know not EWHAED, but if I had to gamble, I'd say rates might be higher in this class than in the general population). I explained to the instructor that comments that linked exercise to food might be triggering for some, unhelpful to many, and that I always appreciate a dialogue that focuses on the health and wellness benefits of exercise, rather than its role in calorie management. I tried to convey this in a casual way, as I can imagine feeling a bit on the defensive if approached with similar feedback. So, here's the kicker--she says, "You're right, you're totally right. Actually, I'm a social worker."